Decoding Italy: Wine!

IMG_6179One of the biggest challenges for visitors to Italy is usually trying to understand Italian wine labels.  Yes, it can be daunting task for the uninitiated, but after learning a few simple rules, the whole endeavor becomes much more potable...

Classification  All Italian wines are classified according to their designation or denomination.  It is a way to help guarantee to the consumer what type of wine to expect in the bottle.  I like to think of these designations as concentric circles.

The smallest circle would be DOCG Denominazione di Origine Controllata e IMG_3312Garantita.  These wines are identifed by a purplish tag placed on the cap of the bottle.  DOCG controlled wines have very strict requirements which range from how densely the vines can be planted, to how much alcohol is in the wine, to aging requirements, color, fragrance, and of course, which grapes to use in each wine.  The wine must also be produced from grape to bottle within a very specific zone, and the bottles are counted and analyzed by government officials.  These wines typically carry a heavier price tag due to the costs of production.  This is not a guarantee that it will be an amazing wine - it is only a guarantee that the winemaker followed the specific rules of vinification during the winemaking process!  Here are a few examples: 

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Decoding Italy: Cheese!

This is the first in a new blog series that I am starting, Decoding Italy - I hope to demistify some daily aspects of Italian life (food, wine, cultural) for future visitors to Italy!

IMG_0008Hunting for cheese in Italy is usually on the top of everyone's bucket list.  Here are some helpful tips to help you whey(d) your way through the Italian curds!

The Italian for cheese is formaggio, from the Latin formaticum, meaning 'form' and (according to legend) the month of May, maggio, when milk is at is best.  Another word we see often in Italy is cacio, from the Latin caseus.  Cacio is just a generic word for formaggio, but we see it frequently:  pasta Cacio Pepe (pasta with cheese & black pepper), Caseficio (a place where cheese is made/sold), and caciotta (a form of typical local cheese - we see this everywhere in Umbria).

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